Watching a dog give birth is entertaining and interesting, and most of the time everything proceeds without difficulty. However, occasionally the owner must intervene when problems occur. When a puppy becomes stuck in the birth canal, quick action can mean the difference between life and death for the puppy, and sometimes for the mother as well.
Determine if the puppy is stuck or if the mother is taking a short break to allow for internal adjustments. If the mother continues to strain or seems distressed, there is a good chance that a puppy is stuck in the birth canal. Hard labour lasting more than a couple of hours indicates a serious problem.
Insert one gloved finger gently into the birth canal, using the lubricant to ease the process. If you can feel the puppy, you may be able to help deliver it. If you cannot feel the puppy, you need to take the dog to a veterinarian.
Grasp the puppy gently, preferably hooking a finger under its legs. It is normal for puppies to be born either feet first or head first, so don't panic if you find the rear instead of the head.
Pull very gently, timing your efforts to work with the mother's contractions. Don't pull the puppy by the head, since you might dislocate its neck. The puppy might be stuck right inside the birth canal, in which case a little help will bring it out quickly.
Wrap the newly delivered pup in a towel and hold it with its head down to clear the fluids from its lungs. Gently suction fluids from its mouth and nose.
Clamp the hemostat onto the umbilical cord, and cut or tear the cord between the mother and the hemostat. A tear or ragged cut is best, as it stimulates the mother's chewing of the cord and helps minimise bleeding. Don't pull on the umbilical cord. Remove the hemostat after a few minutes.
Rub the puppy dry, then let its mother lick it to stimulate breathing and crying. Once the pup has begun to breathe, it might be tired from its extended delivery, but after resting it will usually be fine. Be sure to keep it warm.
While the mother delivers the rest of the litter, keep the puppies in a small box with a heating pad set on low under a thick towel. This keeps them safely out of harm's way as the mother strains to deliver the next puppy. The pups can be returned to the mother when it is not actively in labour, usually as soon as a pup is delivered, then removed again when you see signs of straining. Their nursing efforts help stimulate the mother to let down milk and to deliver the rest of the puppies.
There are many ways a puppy or the mother can be hurt when you try to assist with the delivery. Never insert anything but your finger into the dog's birth canal; don't use forceps or other tools. Never pull on a puppy by its head. Never forcibly pull a puppy from the mother. Never pull on the umbilical cord once the puppy is out, as prematurely separating the placenta can cause the mother to bleed to death. If you are concerned that a situation is beyond your ability to help, contact a veterinarian immediately.